Bio: Nash, Lawrence M. (1923)

Contact: Stan

Surnames: Nash, Johnson, Hill, Jones, Rossier, Ecklund, Witter, LeFrebre, Markham, Friend, Cleveland

----Source: History of Wood County, Wis. (1923) pages 307-309

Lawrence M. Nash. Prominent among the names of the leading citizens of Wis. Rapids is that of Lawrence M. Nash, who, though not a native of this city, is still a pioneer of Wood County, for his entry into the life of this community dates back beyond the memory of thousands now living here. The oldest settlers remember him first as an ambitious young railroad man back in 1874, for that was the year in which he came to make his permanent home. Born in Stoughton, Wis., Jan. 28, 1854, the son of Lawrence and Hannah Nash, he acquired his education in the public schools. The father was a railroad man, and the family soon moved to Grainville, Milwaukee County, where Lawrence M. was reared. As soon as he was able to go to work he entered the ranks of wage earners on a neighboring farm, later giving up that job to work in a store. In 1870 he went to Fond du Lac, where his brother, the late T. E. Nash, was station agent. Here, under his brother's instruction, he learned telegraphy, a technical acquisition that stood him in good stead later on, making it possible for him to secure a position as agent at Moose Lake, Minn., which position he held for a year. From there he went to Random Lake, Wis., of which place he was the first agent. Not content with his salary as agent, Mr. Nash started a little business of his own as a side line, marketing eggs, butter and vegetables, which he shipped to Milwaukee for sale. In August, 1874, the Green Bay & Western Railway offered Mr. Nash a position as station agent at Grand Rapids, and, having accepted it, he came here and remained one year. He left the employ of that road to enter that of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, as agent on the Wis. Valley Division. Being permitted to do other work while acting as agent, he entered the lime, cement and produce business, handling only carload lots. He was also a contractor for wood ties and piling for the railroad and in one year alone handled over 2,400 carloads of wood and over one million ties. In 1878 Mr. Nash left the road to enter into the general store business at Junction City, but retired two years later to go into the hardware business in company with W. J. Jones, founding the Jones & Nash firm, which afterwards became the Centralia Hardware Co., with J. D. Witter, Nels Johnson and G. M. Hill as stockholders with him in the company. When the bridge over the Wis. River here was washed out in 1888, Mr. Nash in company with W. H. Cochran and W. F. Jones, built a ferry which he put into operation in less than a week. Mr. Nash was always progressive, and doing things, and ever alert to the opportunities which offered themselves to him in his daily life. For example, he, in company with E. B. Rossier, Charles Ecklund, and his partner, W. F. Jones, opened and operated the first cheese factories in this section of the country, one at Rudolph and one at Sigel. He has taken an active part in the development of the city, and it was through his efforts as a large stockholder in the Wood County Agricultural Association, and co-operating with the late J. D. Witter, that the tract of land now occupied by the Wood County Training School became the property of the city without cost. Not alone did commercial and business enterprises interest Mr. Nash, for he took a very active and pioneer part in other ventures. He bought, cleared and improved the Mill Creek Stock Farm, consisting of 800 acres located near Junction City, Portage County. It was he who shipped the first car of cattle, sheep and hogs out of Wood County, as all such shipments had previously gone north into the lumbering camps to supply the large crews engaged in that business. He took a great interest in stock breeding and was one of the best known stock fanciers in this section of the state, having large herds of registered cattle, sheep and swine. Mill Creek Farm was sold by Mr. Nash in 1916. Shortly after Mr. Nash came to Wis. Rapids, he and his brother T. E. Nash entered into the cranberry business, the firm being known as Nash Bros. They established two marshes which were successfully operated until 1892, when large marsh fires destroyed the Nash marshes along with others. Mr. Nash diversified his business ventures, as one may see from the varied and numerous enterprises in which he has been engaged. Probably-one of his largest undertakings was the lumbering operations he carried on in Marathon, Lincoln and Wood Counties, employing as large a crew as 200 men. He assisted in the organization of the Grand Rapids Street Railroad Company, was its vice president for several years, and at the present time is president. He has built up a large hardware business which bears his name and is the active head of the firm. Mr. Nash has been a Democrat since he became old enough to take an interest in politics. He has been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and has played an important part in the politics of his party in this section of the state where he has served many years as chairman of the Democratic County Committee. He has been interested in civic advancement, and served as alderman of his ward in Centralia, and as mayor of Centralia, before the two cities were consolidated, and later as mayor of the city of Grand Rapids. He has also been supervisor from his ward in the city for 21 years, and has watched the growth of the county board from a few members to a body of great importance. Many of the most prominent men of the city and county have been his colleagues on the board, the memory of whom he cherishes, regarding his association as an honor. He also served on the school board for six years. On Sept. 25, 1877, Mr. Nash was united in marriage with Amelia Lefebre, and of this union ten children were born, three of whom died in infancy. The others were: Lawrence E. and William E., who hold highly responsible positions with the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Co.; Robert L., formerly postmaster of Wis. Rapids, who died Nov. 28, 1921; Charles M., store manager for the Nash Hardware Co.; Neil E., manager of the Wis. Rapids Street Railroad Company; George A., who is a student at Marquette University, and Isabelle, residing at home. Three of Mr. Nash's sons, Charles, Neil and George,. served with the forces of their country during the late war. The name Nash is one of the most prominent in Wis. Rapids and the surrounding territory. The stranger arriving in this community is told that he does not know the city and its citizens until he knows the Nash family, which has been so strongly entrenched in prominence by the subject of this sketch and his brother, T. E. Nash, now deceased. Mr. Nash has long been an active member of the Catholic church, and of the Knights of Columbus and Elks lodges. During the war he took an earnest and active part in patriotic work as chairman of the finance committee of the first Red Cross drive, and as county chairman of the War Savings Committee, both drives being very successful. Mr. Nash is an enthusiast for outdoor sports such as hunting, trapping and fishing, and has taken many an interesting hunting trip, entertaining Governor Markham of California, Hon, Edward Friend of Dayton, O., and other distinguished guests, on his hunting expeditions. He is a member of the Nash Hunting Club, with fine hunting and fishing lodges at White Sand Lake, where he spends at least a week every year, aside from other interests in out of doors life. At one time Mr., Nash had arranged to entertain President Cleveland on a hunting trip, but the late president was taken ill just before the scheduled trip and it was postponed never to become a reality. Mr. Nash has expressed his ideas in regard to Wis. Rapids as follows: "I have great hopes in Wis. Rapids' future, not for a great city, but a nice, clean, healthy city full of good churches, sound and safe business men, with cooperation between employer and employee, and with the idea of encouraging and helping present home industries with promises for success and prosperity." In many more ways than one L. M. Nash has helped to put Wis. Rapids on the map, and his name will always be linked with those of the most prominent builders of this fine city.



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